Parshat Vayeishev: Settling Words

hero image
Off Balance
18 Dec 2008
Arts & Media

Chaos rages like the perfect storm

Without the perfection; everything

Helter-skelter, rattling to-and-fro –

Off kilter and on edge.


Such is life in the beginning:

The mash in ferocious fermentation

Before the wine can be known or nosed;

The soil tilled before the seed can be instilled;

The seed in rancid rot before the tree can bloom;

The olive’s heart crushed before the oil can flow



It is the burning flame of desire, the heated passion

Of heart, the fiery disposition of purpose which smelts

The iron will and steel nerves that make up any true



Without the power of the storm, the calm would merely be,

Well, calm, sans the peacefulness and excitement true calm

Should bring – there is a fine line between calmness and


The reason for the calm, the drive behind it all,

Is that fine, very fine, line


Yaakov settled in the land


It seems to be all about settling

– Yaakov settled in the land –

About calm, peace, relaxation

Harmony, quiet and comfort

However, the chaos has just begun,

With techno-colored coats, sublime

Dreams, family feuds, nomads and

Slaves, strange relationships, butlers,

Bakers and more



It is the beginning of the descent to

Egypt, the beginning of the first (and

The root of all) exile, and yet it is

Called “settled” – how can this week

Be settling when there is so much pain,

Hurt and suffering, so much darkness all



Of his father’s sojourning

In the land of Canaan


Yaakov didn’t just settle; Yaakov settled

In the land where his father had lived, in

The land given to him and his offspring by

The Creator of all land and, for that matter,

All offspring. Yaakov was connected to the

Soul: he wasn’t naïve, he knew of the darkness

To come…And precisely because of that he

Settled –


He knew the bitter cold and hot tears his children

Would have to go through, he knew all the nights

They would have to shudder and freeze, but he also

Knew that no challenge, no evil, could ever diminish

The light and warmth shining within them all, he knew

That they would come out stronger from any hell and

Bring heaven into everything they touch and anyone

They come across; so the settlement and the peace of

Yaakov was not only a reality then but also gives strength

For any chaos, storm, tempest or whatever for all eternity,

The knowledge that any exile will only enhance our redemption.


Today, in our present state, we have gone

Through more chaos than a people ever should.

It is time to settle, to rise up and settle down, settle

Not in resignation but in triumph, settle not as an end

(Or a means) but as a beginning; settle in the land of our fathers;

Settle in the Land of Israel.

Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.